Christchurch, 26th January 2014
There’s a crack splitting the ceiling outside the room I’m staying in. We drove to Waltham in the rain today, I saw the shipping containers — a sign of the slow recovery of this city.
Sydney, 15th March 2019
I’m out at lunch. My phone buzzes with a breaking news alert: there’s an unfolding situation in Christchurch. The alert mentions Hagley Park and I recall having Christ’s College pointed out to me from the car as we passed Hagley on our way to Waltham that day, five years ago. I try to remember if we drove past Al-Noor too.
I’m home now, on my laptop. Facebook recounts the shootings to me repeatedly as national, then international media, pick up the story. The death toll rises with each link I click on. I ring my parents. I realise we don’t know how to talk about something like this happening in our home. We’ve never had to.
I message my friend in Auckland to check in. “It was my friend’s mosque. He’s devastated.” I hope he’s okay and I begin to wonder how one comforts a stranger from 2000km away.
I’m on the phone with another friend now. I tell her the death toll is at 40. We both fall silent. I try to imagine a room of 40 people, their lives, and their families. The death toll later rises to 50.
Controlled detonation by a bomb squad at Britomart Train Station. That’s 3km from my parent’s house. I come through that station multiple times a week when I return home, rushing up the escalators to meet old faces in the atrium or at Amano across the square. Those memories are briefly suspended in time as the area is quickly closed off, and then reopened.
I ring my mum. She’s shocked and confused. “How did something like this happen here? Maybe I don’t know this place as well as I thought I did.”